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Highly prized for its abundance of natural resources during colonial times, the Cote d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, has continued to be closely tied to France since winning independence in 1960. Controversy developed in the country after a military coup in 1999 established a government elected through rigged results. After this government was overturned by popular protest, fighting continued between government and rebel forces. A ceasefire in 2003 has been enforced by the continued presence of French and West African peacekeeping forces. The Cote d’Ivoire is among the world’s major exporters of coffee, cocoa beans, and palm oil, and oil production is expected to reach over 200,000 barrels per day by 2010. Other natural resources include natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron ore, cobalt, bauxite, copper, gold, nickel, tantalum, silica sand, clay, and hydropower.
Some 68 percent of the workforce is engaged in an agricultural sector that generates less than a third of the gross domestic product. Economic potential has been adversely affected by the political situation and weather conditions. The Cote d’Ivoire has a per capita income of only $1,500, ranking 196th among world incomes. Around 37 percent of the population lives in poverty, and income is unevenly divided. The most affluent 10 percent of the population holds 28.8 percent of the country’s wealth. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Reports rank Cote d’Ivoire 163 of 232 countries on overall quality of life issues.
Bordering on the Gulf of Guinea in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Cote d’Ivoire has a 515 kilometer coastline and 4,460 square kilometers of inland water resources. The Cote d’Ivoire shares land borders with Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Mali. The terrain of the country is generally flat with undulating plains except in the mountains of the northwest. Elevations range from sea level to 1,752 meters at Mont Nimba. Along the coast, the Cote d’Ivoire experiences a tropical climate. However, in the north, the climate is semiarid. The Cote d’Ivoire has three distinct seasons. The period between November and March is warm and dry. Temperatures continue to rise until the end of May. The hot rainy season that begins in June lasts until October, frequently producing torrential flooding. The coast, which is subject to heavy surf, has no natural harbors.
The population of 17,655,000 is beset by both poverty and disease. Due to an HIVIAIDS prevalence rate of 7 percent, some 47,000 people have died and another 570,000 are living with the disease. While 84 percent of the population has sustained access to safe drinking water, only 23 percent of rural residents and 40 percent of all residents have access to improved sanitation. Ivoirians are also susceptible to a very high risk of food and waterborne diseases, as well as malaria and yellow fever. Such high incidences of disease have resulted in low life expectancy (48.82 years) and growth rates (2.03 percent) and high infant mortality (89.11 deaths) and death rates (14.84 deaths per 1,000 population). Ivoirian women give birth to an average of 4.5 children. Literacy rates of 43.6 for females and 57.9 for males make it difficult for the government to educate Ivoirians about disease prevention.
At one time, the rain forest of the Cote d’Ivoire was the largest in West Africa. Today, however, the forest has become overexploited; between 1960 and 1987, forest cover was reduced from 37 million to 8 million acres. Some 71 percent of land area is currently forested, but deforestation is occurring at a rate of 3.1 annually. Most of the population lives along the coast, particularly in the area around Abidjan, which is the commercial and administrative capital of the Cote d’Ivoire. In urban areas, agricultural runoff, the dumping of raw sewage, and industrial effluents have produced severe water pollution. The government has, however, improved air quality by reducing the rate of carbon dioxide emissions per capita metric tons from 0.7 percent in 1980 to 0.4 percent in 2002. The government has also protected 6 percent of land area. Nevertheless, the biodiversity of the entire rain forest is threatened by the expanding population. Of 230 endemic mammal species, 19 are endangered, as are 12 of 252 bird species. In 2006, scientists at Yale University ranked Cote d’Ivoire 86 of 132 countries on environmental performance, slightly above the comparable income and geographic groups. The overall score was greatly reduced by the poor showing in the category of environmental health.
Between the mid-1960s and 2002, the government of the Cote d’Ivoire began passing a body of legislation designed to deal with mounting environmental problems, assigning responsibility for implementing and enforcing laws to the Minister of Environment. New laws dealt with protecting fauna and with revising existing forestry, mining, petrol, environment, rural land management, and water codes. The government also established a national park system and set aside nature reserves. Implementation and enforcement of these laws, however, has been hampered by a lack of funding, personnel, and technology. The Cote d’Ivoire participates in the following international agreements on the environment: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, and Wetlands.
- Timothy Doyle, Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds: A Global Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
- Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
- Valentine Udoh James, Africa’s Ecology: Sustaining the Biological and Environmental Diversity of a Continent (McFarland, 1993).